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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 20:57 GMT
Study rules out bat rabies threat
There is little chance of catching rabies from bats
Scientists have found bats pose little threat of passing rabies on to humans.

A study by the Scottish Executive, Scottish Natural Heritage and Defra found it is rare to contract the killer disease from the mammals.

David McRae, from Angus, died in 2002 after contracting rabies from a bat bite which prompted the research.

The report revealed just 2% of one species of bat - the Daubenton - could carry the rabies disease after antibodies were found in its blood.

Blood samples from the animals revealed they had a low level of antibodies - indicating they had come in contact with the disease - but no traces of the live virus were found.

Rabies virus

The European Bat Lyssavirus 2 (EBLV2) strain is closely related to the classical rabies virus and is common in bats across northern Europe.

The study, published in The Veterinary Record, is the first of its kind to be carried out and used data taken from 19 sites across south and east Scotland.

Extremely rare

Deaths from bat rabies are extremely rare and since 1977 there have been three deaths in Europe attributed to EBVL infections, including that of Mr McRae.

In Europe, between 1977 and 2003, more than 700 confirmed EBVL cases were found in animals - mainly in Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Spain and Germany.

Defra said it was considering whether to widen the study across other areas of the UK.

A spokesman for the agency said anyone who found a sick or ailing bat should not approach or handle the animal but seek advice from the Bat Conservation Trust and anyone bitten or scratched should seek medical attention.

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